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UK farmers get over £2.7 billion from the EU every year, adding up to 55% of farmers’ income in 2014, rising to 70% in 2015 says Defra (FT May 3, 2017). These payments for the majority of farms make the difference between profit and loss. Of a net profit of say £150 per acre that a mainstream, mixed enterprise farm might earn, £70 would come from EU. They would lose it. And the EU takes 62% of British farming exports. That would also be at risk.
A further 5.2 billion euros is allocated to UK rural development per annum. That would go too.
Highly unlikely a future government would maintain that support given continued cutting of public sector expenditures and the fact that farming contributes just one per cent to GDP.
Also of concern is the potential loss of labour from the EU. To offset the risk farmers are testing automated machines for picking fruit. (Times of London, March 25, 2017).
Farming minister tells Lords environment committee: ‘Prize of leaving EU is to design policy to help farmers become more profitable, support the environment and promote things such as animal welfare.’ (FT May3, 2017). We shall see.
Farms would go and prices would rise.
Is this what we want ?